Kitchen Witch - Year of living dangerously and deliciously

Recipe: Lemon-ricotta pancakes with berry sauce

For a year in the late 1990s, I lived in a run-down house in a down-and-out neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Inside the crumbling shell of that dump was a haven, an oasis created by me and my dear friend, Christopher.

He lived on the second floor, and I lived below, in a floor-through apartment. Although separated by staircases, we were as close as a married couple, even though Chrissy is gay. We shared much of our free time together and created many rituals, including banana pancakes on Saturday morning.

If he couldn’t get a whiff of hot oil coming from my kitchen, Chrissy would crouch down over a hole in the floor (my ceiling) and holler, “KIMMY, is breakfast ready yet? I’m comin’ down.”

Breakfast often led to an excursion in Chrissy’s little white car, either to a thrift shop or the supermarket, where we’d shop for the week. Sunday nights were for curling up in front of the television for our dose of “Sex and the City.” It was a precious year, filled with love, fashion and flour.

When Chrissy moved to New York, our haven became a hellhole, and soon I was run out by rats and robbers. In the years since, Chrissy has taught himself how to cook but I had never tasted his food — until a recent visit, when he offered, of course, to make pancakes for breakfast.

His version, scented with lemon and lightened with egg whites and ricotta cheese, are a delightful surprise, requiring only a blender, a skillet and 20 minutes to get the job done. Chrissy’s pancakes are now part of my weekend — all I need is an Internet phone so he can watch me continue our tradition.

Lemon-ricotta pancakes with berry sauce

Adapted from April 2002 issue of Food & Wine magazine

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

2 large whole eggs

2 egg whites, from large eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated or finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon honey

Optional: 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 10-ounce bag frozen raspberries or mixed berries (in season, use a pint of fresh berries)

• In a blender or food processor, whiz the ricotta, eggs, egg whites, flour, oil, lemon zest, salt and honey until smooth.

• Meanwhile, prepare berry sauce: Empty bag of berries or fresh berries into a medium saucepan and add a few ounces of water to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pan. On low-medium heat, warm fruit thoroughly and stir occasionally. Pass fruit through a sieve, and return strained fruit to saucepan. Add a few teaspoons of sugar, to taste. Cook over medium heat and allow to reduce by about one-third, and let thicken. Remove from heat until ready to serve.

• Heat a few teaspoons of canola oil on a nonstick or regular skillet over moderately low heat. (Yes, even with a nonstick pan, I like to use oil to slick the surface.)

• Working in batches, pour 2 rounded tablespoons of the batter onto the griddle for each pancake, allowing enough room for them to spread slightly. Cook the pancakes until the bottoms are golden, the tops are slightly set and small bubbles appear, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden, about 1 minute longer.

• Transfer to a plate and pour sauce on top. Alternatively, keep pancakes warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve. Makes enough for two.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.